Cheek, Reed say not guilty to Gonzalez slaying

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Managing Editor

LAPLACE — Johnnie Lee Cheek and Crystal Reed each entered a plea of not guilty Monday afternoon during their arraignment before 40th Judicial District Judge J. Sterling Snowdy.

A status conference hearing is scheduled Sept. 21 in Edgard, starting at noon.

The pair was indicted Thursday by the St. John Parish Grand Jury in connection with the June 16 homicide of Capt. Octavio Gonzalez of the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Cheek, 31, wearing shackles and cuffs, shuffled into the main courtroom, wearing an orange Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office jumpsuit. His forearms were heavily tattooed, his long hair was swept back from his forehead, and the beginnings of a full beard were apparent.

Reed, 27, similarly attired, rocked back and forth in her chair, on the verge of tears throughout most of the proceedings. When Cheek entered the courtroom during her arraignment, she avoided looking at his face.

Each defendant heard the charges pending against them, face to face in open court, as required under the law. After the reading of the charges, a plea of not guilty was entered by each defendant.

Cheek and Reed were each accompanied by their respective attorneys: Richard Goorley for Cheek and Paul Fleming Jr. for Reed. Goorley is Chief Counsel for the Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana, which assists local indigent defender boards in similar cases. One office is located in Baton Rouge, one in Shreveport and two in New Orleans.

However, as Fleming told the court, he will soon step down from the case, due to his already-heavy workload of cases.

Cheek, who faces charges of first-degree murder of a police officer (which is a capital offense) and two counts of attempted first-degree

murder of a police officer. His alleged accomplice Reed faces charges of being a principal to Cheek’s charges.

The attorneys both requested that Cheek and Reed continue to be housed in Jefferson Parish, because St. John Sheriff Wayne L. Jones told a Times-Picayune reporter he could not guarantee their safety in his jail.

Motions hearings are also pending in Jefferson Parish – Aug. 24 for Reed and Sept. 7 for Cheek, according to the Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court office.

In Jefferson Parish, Cheek faces second-degree kidnapping and several counts of armed robbery. Reed claimed she herself was kidnapped by Cheek and forced to assist him in his crimes.

A car driven by Cheek was pulled over that night by Detective Monty Adams and Tangipahoa Deputy Keith Womack, who were working a multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking program on Interstate 10 in LaPlace.

Before Adams could exit his vehicle, he was fired upon and struck in the left thigh. Womack was not injured.

Later that night, Cheek allegedly shot and killed Gonzalez, stole unmarked vehicle and the pair made their way to Kenner, where Reed was captured. Cheek then allegedly stole a second vehicle and eventually surrended in River Ridge, following a hostage standoff.